Is Your Decision Not to Vaccinate Your Child More Important Than the Population’s Health at Large?

Nothing like a little controversy on a spring afternoon…

When I was a little girl I remember standing in a long line in the elementary school gymnasium, waiting to get my state-mandated immunizations. They wouldn’t let me in school without it, and I’m sure it never entered my parents’ minds to even consider not getting us immunized.

I also remember kids getting mumps, and measles, and other diseases you rarely see today.

When I was pregnant with Son I became more aware of the concern about a possible link between autism and immunizations, and the concerns are still there. The Thimerisol used as a preservative in many vaccines was such a cause for concern and received so much bad press it’s no longer used as an ingredient in vaccines today. The link between vaccines and autism has been the subject of many scientific studies; they just can’t seem to find any science linking it. But the passion behind the “anecdotal evidence” is hard to ignore, or dismiss, especially when you are a new mother thinking about allowing these vaccines to be injected into your child. Which left me confused.

Are the vaccines worse than the diseases they supposedly protect from? The vast, vast majority of children suffer no ill effects, and many of the typical diseases that were still around when I was a kid have been mostly eradicated due to the great majority of children being vaccinated. I’ll bet the parents of many autistic children, and children who may have had other suspected or proven vaccination-related issues, would say yes, the vaccines are worse. They may regret their decision to vaccinate. And who can blame them?

So as a new parent I was very afraid. But in the end I decided to go with the odds and have Son vaccinated, though I spread out the timing a bit. That probably did nothing but make me feel like I was doing something to mitigate the risk, but whatever. Apparently I’m not above a little self-delusion.

Every day I searched for signs that he was having “ill affects”. I willed him to make eye contact, which he did. And when it became obvious that he was having some speech delays I was terrified. We put him in speech therapy and enrolled him in school two mornings a week, and we prayed. We’re lucky that he was done with speech therapy at age 3, and I recently had him evaluated and the results were all typical for his age. Thank you, G-d. We are blessed.

Still, I’ve wondered if there is truly a link. I have friends who have chosen not to immunize, and I’ve always understood and supported their choices. I still do. It’s such a personal decision.

Recently I heard about the twelve children in San Diego who contracted measles, which can be a fatal disease, especially in the very young or immuno-suppressed. Nine of the twelve had not been vaccinated. Three were too young, and six had parents opposed to the vaccinations. On the Today Show the other morning they ran a story about this, and asked the question, “Is your decision not to vaccinate your child more important than the population’s health at large?”

That’s quite a question.

Vaccines are not 100% effective. Children who have been vaccinated can still contract the disease. The more unvaccinated people there are, the more risk of transmission.

So, where does your right to decide for your child end and your responsibility for the public health begin?

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

I’m reminded of a story I read many years ago, while still in high school. Now I want to warn you, this is one of the most depressing stories I’ve ever heard, but what can I tell you, I was reminded.

I don’t recall all of the details, but it involved people hiding in an underground bunker hiding from oppressive forces (Nazi’s?) * searching for them. A woman was holding her very young infant, and the baby’s cries were putting the entire hidden group in great danger of discovery. The mother put her hand over the child’s mouth, and eventually the soldiers moved on. Everyone survived, except the baby.

That story has haunted me ever since. What a horrible, horrible decision to make. What a horrible, horrible action to take. What a horrible, horrible thing to live with. There was just no way to win.

Can we win? Isn’t parenting just making the best decision you can, and praying for a good outcome? The decisions I make as a parent, even decisions that seem to be only related to my family, can have far reaching effects.

What do you think? Did you/will you have your children immunized? Does the population at large factor into your decision?

*  Edited to add that Husband says I didn’t read it, but that it was a scene in an episode on M*A*S*H, and the oppressive forces were the North Koreans.

10 Responses to “Is Your Decision Not to Vaccinate Your Child More Important Than the Population’s Health at Large?”

  1. mommy2myblessings Says:

    I have done some vaccinations for my children in the past. I never did them all, but in the beginning I did some. I now have a 14 month old who has never had a vaccination. This is a decision that my husband and I came to after lots of research over an extended time. I do not desire to hijack your blog with a long comment regarding reasons but you can get more information here:

  2. Stacy Leigh Says:

    I didn’t know what to expect when I clicked on your title (was browsing the parenting tags), but I really enjoyed what you said.

    I think “So, where does your right to decide for your child end and your responsibility for the public health begin?” is such a great question to ask… I don’t have the answer and I know that there are very passionate answers on all sides of the issue.

    As for me, we will not be vaccinating our children when we have them. For me, the unknown risks of vaccinating outweigh the known risks of the diseases. I think I have a greater responsibility to my future children than to the general population.

    It is such a personal decision. I can support vaccination decisions that are made after research and education (whether they decide to fully vax, selectively, delayed, not at all, whatever), but it is when people don’t think about it at all and just do what they are told that grieves my heart. I’m glad people are talking about this!

  3. wilddaisy33 Says:

    You know what bugs me about part of the vaccine discussion that few seem to pick up on? The MMR shot – which goes beyond the thimerasol discussion into the one of injecting a child with live virus. Further, the fact that 90% of people are immune after the first shot, but because it’s cheaper to re-inject than it is to test for immunity (titer test), the choice is to reinject.

    I, for one, am far more willing to give my child numerous shots spread out over a longer period of time – I wish they would not combine these shots (now I’ve heard they’ve incorporated the chicken pox shot into the MMR as well) simply to make it easier on everyone.

    We did vaccine our son, he does have autism (from birth, but I believe vaccines were still part of the problem), but we stopped vaccinating at 4 and started doing titers instead. He is SO incredibly immune to M, M and R that his docs believe his immune system was compromised by the vaccine itself. I shudder to think what may have happened had we done the second shot. But the point is, he IS immune, and is not posing a risk to himself or anyone else despite the fact that his immunizations aren’t up to date.

    Your discussion is good, valid, and well thought out. It’s a tough issue, but until there can be more thoughtful study, research and discussion MINUS the spin, rage and misinformation about the safety of vaccines, I, for one, will continue to be skeptical of them. I know they are for the greater good, so I just wish someone could find a way to know which children will be likely to experience complications BEFORE the shots are given.

    Well written.

    Darcy (asdmommy.wordpress)

  4. lookingforlifeshumor Says:

    If you’ve ever experienced the heartbreak and despair that comes with having a child with Autism whom you love but who cannot express their love for you… if you’ve had to figure out how to pay for all of the doctor, therapist, drug, special foods, and other bills that come with Autism but for which the insurance companies and government refuse to pay… if you’ve experienced the sacrifice of your marriage (80% divorce rate in families with an Autistic child), your friendships, and even other children because your child with Autism requires all you can give and more… If you’ve felt yourself breaking down each day with the isolation and despair that comes with Autism… then you might be able to better understand why many parents are so hesitant to follow the mandated vaccine schedule. It is not like this for all families where there is Autism, but it is for many. While I believe vaccines are overall a good thing, I do not believe the current schedule of required vaccines in the US is appropriate for all children and it needs to be re-examined and requirements revised.

  5. Kate Says:

    After extensive reading, study, immersion, thought… I got both my kids vaccinated and will do so again for future children. On schedule, even.

    I do not believe that immunizations have *any* causal relationship with autism. I believe there is a chronological relationship, and I believe that it feels better to say “this is why this happened,” than to live with, “we don’t know.”

    And lest I sound unsympathetic, I want to be clear that my heart aches and I do understand what it’s like to live with a child whose illness is devastating and unexplainable. I wish there were more answers… and better yet, more cures.

  6. goodfountain Says:

    It is hard not to be scared of vaccines. It’s hard not to be scared of any and everything that anyone suggest may harm your child.

    We vaccinated my first daughter on the normal schedule, and she has SPD and Language Disorder. I don’t think the vaccines had anything to do with that. She also is somewhat gifted in that since she was age 2 she’s been spelling words and she’s been reading since age 3. It’s a self-taught skill. I never taught her to read. If I blame the vaccines for the SDP and Language Disorder, do I give them credit for the Reading Ability?

    Even though I don’t blame the vaccines, I am slowing down the schedule with my 2nd daughter. I’m spacing them out and she’s only getting one vaccine at a time. I figure it can’t hurt to slow things down.

  7. Melissa Says:

    We have chosen to selectively vaccinate our children. The vaccine we chose not to give? Hepatitis B. I get chills thinking of hours old babies getting their first Hep B shot when the disease is only transmitted through blood/ IV drug use or sexual contact. Is it my responsibility to public health means that I need to educate my children, not immunize them from something the government has determined they are at risk for contracting sometime in the future.

  8. shannon Says:

    i for one am a mother of two young boys 3 and 1 and i am expecting my 3rd i have friends telling me not to vaccinate and i still will vaccinate my child i have a site that totally contradicts the link between vaccinations and autism now my younger brother suffers from autism and my family has come to find that it is in our blood lines not from him getting vaccinated. i totally think it is your choice not to vaccinate your children but please please please think of your child who can not make this choice for them self and think of the other children that your child(ren) will be exposed to. here is that link i was talking about

  9. Quinn Says:

    Yes there are concerns about the population, but think… if everyone else got a vaccine, then they are safe, supposedly. Why do I need to get vaccinated or have my family vaccinated if the only people that I can hurt are the ones that share my decision

  10. Brett Says:

    Firstly, I must say that I started then stopped vaccinating my two children. It’s hard to ignore the fact that autism didn’t exist until vaccinations started although there are so many other chemical pollutants in our world that could be the cause. I guess my overall view is this. I know the risks of not getting vaccinated, I don’t know all of the risks of vaccinating and I am not going to take the word of the system that has told me in the past and then changed its minds that smoking was OK, that asbestos was safe, and on and on and on. The people who make these types decisions and laws, like making immunizations manditory or saying that this product is safe or not, do so based on imperfect and often bias opinions and information. They have to contend with the evidence of a tested product along with other outside influences such as lobbyists, big business, and profits, their friends, family, and conscience or lack thereof. It’s easier for me to remove this from the equation and base my information on what i know, which is the risks associated with not taking the vaccination. As to the question of individual vs entire population, i do know this, the USA is supposed to be a country that respects the decisions of the individual, not having to conform as if in a dictatorship.

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